WASHINGTON - On the 1,999th shot on goal of his NHL career, Alex Ovechkin was brought down from behind by Braydon Coburn.
That led to attempt No. 2,000, when the NHL's two-time reigning MVP did something he's never done before: He scored on a penalty shot.
Ovechkin snapped an 0-for-5 career slump in penalty shots by beating Ray Emery with a backhand move with 4:12 to play as the Washington Capitals piled on the goals again Sunday, retaking first place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Ovechkin is by far the fastest player to reach 2,000 shots since the NHL started keeping the stat in 1967. He's done it in 4 1/2 seasons -- no one else has done it in six. He had 249 of them go into the net.
The penalty shot statistic doesn't include shootouts -- he's 1-for-5 in those tiebreakers this year. Still, was the first successful penalty shot cause for celebration? Yes -- but mainly because it was Washington's fifth goal of the game, which triggers a promotion that gives wings to all the fans at the game.
"We just want to give fans free chicken wings and give them free food, you know?" Ovechkin said with a smile.
Brooks Laich broke out of a slump to score twice, including a short-handed goal in the third period, and Mike Knuble and Alexander Semin also netted as the league's highest scoring team scored at least four goals for the seventh straight game, improving to 6-1 during that stretch.
Jose Theodore made 30 saves to go 2-for-2 in his first set of consecutive starts since mid-December. The save of the game, however, was made by Washington defenceman Tom Poti. With the Capitals scrambling to kill a penalty in the second period, Poti perched next to Theodore and got his right skate in front of Jeff Carter's point-blank shot that would have tied the game at three. Carter was so sure the puck had gone in that he raised both arms to celebrate.
Carter and James van Riemsdyk scored in the first period, and Danny Briere scored in the game's final minute for the Flyers, who outshot the Capitals 33-22.
In addition to Poti's stop on Carter, Philadelphia's other near-misses came when Mike Richards hit the right post during a 4-on-4 stretch in the second period and when Scott Hartnell had a third-period goal waived off because he kicked the puck into the net with his right skate.
"They've got a good hockey team," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. "You want to get more chances, but you've got to do the work and do the right things to get them, so it's difficult. But I thought we had our looks, they had their looks -- they put 'em in."
Ray Emery, playing his first game since having abdominal surgery Dec. 9, made 17 saves for the Flyers, who have lost two straight after a four-game winning streak. Emery's last game had also been against the Capitals, an 8-2 loss in Philadelphia on Dec. 5 that also happened to be the first game for Laviolette after John Stevens was fired.
The game was tied at two after the first period. Semin gave Washington the lead for good in the second when he put in the rebound on a power play. Laich made it a two-goal lead while killing a penalty in the third, picking Richards' pocket and scoring on a breakaway for his first two-goal game since Nov. 1.
"He is a very intense young man," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Sometimes he likes to do too much. We just looked over his video -- his shifts, his goals -- we saw if there was anything we could find that he was doing different. We had a good talk, and I was so happy when he scored."
NOTES: When the Capitals scored only one goal in the second period, it broke a streak in which Washington had scored twice in six straight periods -- not counting overtime. ... The Capitals won three of four meetings between the teams this season. ... Knuble has six goals in six games. ... Hartnell returned after missing one game with a stomach virus. ... Washington D John Erskine sat out his fourth straight game with an upper body injury, and D Brian Pothier missed his second in a row with an undisclosed injury.